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Drone mapping the real estate industry

Year to year, changes in computer technology can be staggering.

In most cases, the advancements give rise to disruption—and opportunities—in every industry. In real estate, one such disruption is being caused by drones, which have become an extremely effective means of mapping and marketing property.

Drone mapping is replacing manned aerial flyovers, like those used in Google Earth, a technology the industry has relied on for decades. More than taking pictures, videos, and plotting property boundaries on a map, drone mapping provides buyers and sellers with low-cost, high-resolution, and frequently changed imagery.

Drone mapping

Drones autonomously capture overlapping images that are geo-referenced and stitched together to provide an orthomosaic. The orthomosaic is used just like any other layer in a GIS to serve as an accurate, high-resolution, revised aerial basemap.

Data on boundary lines, trails, flood zones and topographic contours can be laid on top of the drone imagery for mapping. Informative data on things such as deer stands, utilities and hog damage can also be collected and plotted.

Many sorts of photogrammetric software are on offer for drone mapping, such as Pix4D, DroneDeploy. Every sort of software has its pros and cons, but all generate more than just imagery. A standard DJI drone and camera alone can provide 3D meshes, digital elevation models and measure plant health. The data outputs can be used to generate topographic contours, identify troubled places in agricultural fields, or even help find the best site to build a home or cabin.

A small, helpful practice is adding the property boundaries and descriptive text on the drone photos. Software such as Photoshop or GIMP can aid with editing the raster photos themselves and adding vector boundaries and text.

Although drone mapping can assist marketing efforts and helps buyers make informed decisions, it is not ideal for all properties. Properties that are too large or densely forested can cause delays in image processing or increase cost.

Drone pilot certification

The greatest benefit of being a certified drone pilot is being able to fly as you are showing properties to potential buyers. It is even possible to sell properties to buyers who have never walked the property, but who have watched the live feed of an airborne drone on a tablet.

An FAA Part 107 certification is highly recommended. Many local and online schools offer preparation for the 60 question test. Drone Launch Academy online offers a pass guarantee or your money back.

Occasionally, you will need to work with an airport before you fly, so it is always a good idea to plan your flights ahead of time, although most rural properties are not near airports or restricted airspaces.

Bottom line

Modern drone technology is an excellent mapping system that helps agents close deals more quickly. There are a large number of supplementary applications that provide various benefits to those in the broker industry. When all is said and done, drone mapping is a must-have for every listing in the brokerage industry.

Seth Thompson is a realtor at National land Realty licensed in Northwest Alabama’s office in Tuscumbia, Alabama. 

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